/ ©: Canadian Whale Institute/Yan Guilbault / WWF-Canada

Right whales

Untangling the North Atlantic right whale

Over 70% of North Atlantic right whales bear scars from being entangled in fishing gear. Severe entanglements may lead to death. With only 450 whales left, WWF's work with fishermen and scientists is crucial to saving these magnificent creatures.
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 / ©: PCCS/PCCS-NOAA permit 633-1763 / WWF-Canada
Northern right whale mother and calf
© PCCS/PCCS-NOAA permit 633-1763 / WWF-Canada

WWF's Work

For almost 20 years, WWF has been involved in right whale protection. The population is now rebounding but they are still endangered due to current human activities. Our work must focus on the dangers that cause great suffering and often death - entanglements in fishing gear.

WWF is bringing together those who can save the right whale - fishermen and scientists. Nobody wants to lose these beautiful animals and WWF is providing the industry a forum for building solutions.

Progress is already being made. Lobster fishermen along Nova Scotia’s south shore have voluntarily implemented practices to reduce entanglement. Watch this video to see what they've done:



A valuable commodity during the whaling era, the species gets its name from early whalers, who considered it to be the "right" whale to hunt. Their slower pace, proximity to land, tendency to float after being killed and their "productivity" in terms of oil made them lucrative animals to target. One whale could provide up to 70 barrels of oil for lamps and machine lubrication, and their long baleen (teeth) were used to make things like bed springs, buggy whips and the stays in corsets.

Once thought to number between 5,000 and 10,000, by the late 1880s they had been hunted to near extinction.

Today they face other dangers – particularly from vessel collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. With only 450 remaining in the world, they need protection now or they will be lost forever.
Scientific Name:
Eubalaena glacialis
Length: 18 metres
Weight: 
50-70 tonnes
Speed:
8km/h
Location: Atlantic Ocean along the North American coast.

Migrate between rich feeding grounds in northern waters (including critical habitats in Grand Manan and Roseway Basins off Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Cape Cod Bay and the Great South Channel) and calving grounds in southern waters off Florida and Georgia.

Status:

SARA
: Endangered
IUCN
: Endangered

Population:

450 individuals

Did you know?

Once headed for extinction, right whales experienced a baby boom in 2009, with 39 calves born. This is the largest number of calves ever recorded by scientists!
WWF-Canada’s work on the conservation of North Atlantic right whales is supported by the Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, CSL Group Inc., Fred and Elizabeth Fountain and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.